Skip to main content
Healthy Habits

Much of the real business of government doesn’t take place in Parliament at all. In fact, it all happens in the Red Lion pub, just round the corner from the MPs offices in Portcullis House and if its opinions you want, then you’ll find a noisy, smoke-filled bar full of them any evening after six.

I can’t say that it’s been a great month for government, electronic government that is. Firstly, the NHS e-mail and Private Finance Initiative (PFI) story I have been telling you about, has been picked-up by many different kinds of publications and agencies, encouraging well-informed people to ask some very awkward questions about public sector IT projects. In response to my column on Monday, The British Computer Society (BCS) sent me a document of their own, entitled ‘Radical Steps in Health Informatics’, which states “Unless concerted action is taken, the widely welcomed new strategies for healthcare IT are at risk”.

All this of course, in the same month that the National Audit Office (NAO) documented how “A catalogue of management failures exposed the government’s Individual Learning Accounts (ILA) scheme to massive defrauding of taxpayers money on a multi-million pound scale”, prompting the DfES to rapidly issue a statement to the effect that it had ended its joint venture with Capita to develop a successor to the failed ILA scheme.

Finally, the icing on the cake, was a report that my redoubtable friend, e-Envoy, Andrew Pinder, a man with one of the country’s most unenviable jobs after the Northern Ireland Office, had allegedly told delegates at a conference, that the Prime Minister’s 2005 target of achieving 100% joined up government, 581 different services, was unreachable. It’s possible that most readers no longer believe in the tooth fairy and had guessed as much already but honest Andrew apparently departed from his script and before he could be bought back ‘on-message’, told his audience, “That we have no chance of making it. It’s like an albatross around my neck”. One PR wag has remarked that the e-Envoy really meant CW360 and not the Prime Minister’s 2005 target, which does of course explain everything and is as good an excuse as any to offer No10 for a momentary lapse of spin.

One comment that I did take away from the pub, one which I pondered as I walked past Big Ben, was that government means well but manages badly. There are, I’m told, too many big ‘Blue Sky’ projects taking place both here and in Europe and we really need to ask whether introducing expensive technology is really an exercise in concealing poor management and bad public sector business processes?

I really don’t know what the answer is but I do believe, from the conversation in the pub that we need to find a more effective way of involving groups of smaller highly specialized companies in the public sector procurement process and cease relying almost exclusively on an unholy trinity of giants for the delivery and very often failure of the taxpayers IT solutions. Go ask the blokes in the pub. They’ll tell you the same.


Popular posts from this blog

Mainframe to Mobile

Not one of us has a clue what the world will look like in five years’ time, yet we are all preparing for that future – As  computing power has become embedded in everything from our cars and our telephones to our financial markets, technological complexity has eclipsed our ability to comprehend it’s bigger picture impact on the shape of tomorrow.

Our intuition has been formed by a set of experiences and ideas about how things worked during a time when changes were incremental and somewhat predictable. In March 1953. there were only 53 kilobytes of high-speed RAM on the entire planet.

Today, more than 80 per cent of the value of FTSE 500* firms is ‘now dark matter’: the intangible secret recipe of success; the physical stuff companies own and their wages bill accounts for less than 20 per cent: a reversal of the pattern that once prevailed in the 1970s. Very soon, Everything at scale in this world will be managed by algorithms and data and there’s a need for effective platforms for ma…

The Big Steal

I’m not here to predict the future;” quipped the novelist, Ray Bradbury. “I’m here to prevent it.” And the future looks much like one where giant corporations who hold the most data, the fastest servers, and the greatest processing power will drive all economic growth into the second half of the century.

We live in an unprecedented time. This in the sense that nobody knows what the world will look like in twenty years; one where making confident forecasts in the face of new technologies becomes a real challenge. Before this decade is over, business leaders will face regular and complex decisions about protecting their critical information and systems as more of the existing solutions they have relied upon are exposed as inadequate.

The few real certainties we have available surround the uninterrupted march of Moore’s Law - the notion that the number of transistors in the top-of-the-line processors doubles approximately every two years - and the unpredictability of human nature. Exper…

An Ockham of Gatwick

The 13th century theologian and philosopher, William of Ockham, who once lived in his small Surrey village, not so very far from what is today, the wide concrete expanse of Gatwick airport is a frequently referenced source of intellectual reason. His contribution to modern culture was Ockham’s Razor, which cautions us when problem solving, that “The explanation requiring the fewest assumptions is most likely to be correct;” sound advice which constantly proves to be true.

A week further-on since Britain’s second busiest airport was bought to a complete standstill by two or perhaps two hundred different drone sightings, it is perhaps time to revisit William of Ockham’s maxim, rather than be led astray by an increasingly bizarre narrative, one which has led Surrey police up several blind alleys with little or nothing in the way of measurable results.

 Exploring the possibilities with a little help in reasoning from our medieval friar, we appear to have a choice of two different account…